A note before we start: this preview relies heavily on the defensive UFRs of last year because there’s a convenient numerical system that does a decent job of summing up a defensive player’s contributions. One caveat: the system is generous to defensive linemen and harsh to defensive backs, especially cornerbacks. A +4 for a defensive end is just okay; for a cornerback it’s outstanding.
|STRONG DE||Yr.||NOSE TACKLE||Yr.||THREE-TECH||Yr.||WEAK DE||Yr.|
|Craig Roh||Sr.||Quinton Washington||Jr.*||Will Campbell||Sr.||Jibreel Black||Jr.|
|Nate Brink||Jr.*#||Richard Ash||So.*||Ryan Glasgow||Fr.#||Brennen Beyer||So.|
|Keith Heitzman||Fr.*||Ondre Pipkins||Fr.||Matt Godin||Fr.||Frank Clark||So.|
Okay okay okay. Breathe. Breathe in. Breathe out. Feel the lung expand and contract, and feel a calmness wash over you. Yeah. Calm. Calm.
Michigan lost three starters, may be starting a 280-pound three-tech, moved the only returning starter, and has a walk-on seriously pressing for playing time. If they're not starting a 280-pound three-tech, they're starting a 280-pound WDE. Will Campbell inherits a starting spot essentially by default.
No no no no. Calm. Callllm.
The big piece of news that hit when the Big Ten Network was let inside the velvet rope at Michigan practice was Jerry Montgomery naming Quinton Washington one of his starters instead of Brennen Beyer. This was followed up by a depth chart confirming this fact.
Clarity came Monday when Hoke made an appearance at the UM Club of Greater Detroit's kickoff dinner that I was at, waiting for the Q&A session with Greg Dooley and Angelique Chengelis. Hoke took questions, someone asked him about the defensive line, and Hoke gave a straight answer. To paraphrase: Michigan is planning on rotating six guys. Washington will be the nose in certain packages with Campbell at three tech and Black at WDE. In other packages they'll remove Washington and slide everyone down, inserting Beyer at WDE and going with Roh-Campbell-Black-Beyer.
Who's the sixth guy? You got me. I'd guess it's Nate Brink, but it didn't come up.
this year he'll totally live up to this image. really! (probably not really.)
This time we mean it, Will Campbell: it's now or never. The one-time five-star recruit is now a senior. He's been handed a starting spot by the graduation of three DL starters and Rodriguez's crappy recruiting. This makes everyone nervous because obviously.
There is some good news on this front. After a couple years in which Campbell appearances were all but guaranteed to draw this sort of commentary…
I'm not at the point where I can tell you the ten different things Campbell did to get blown four yards downfield, but I can blather on about pad level: man, pad level. Am I right?
…his cameos were fairly effective last year. He got limited snaps, of course, but only ended up negative against Iowa, when he got cut twice on big Coker runs. He had a +5 against ND, a +3.5 against SDSU, a +4 against Minnesota, and a +4 against Illinois, three of which came when he blew up a third and one by himself:
Unfortunately, these positives and highlights are all against the worst offensive lines on the schedule (and ND, oddly). Michigan didn't put him out there much against tougher competition; now they've got no choice.
"The most dramatic change I've seen in a body on our team is Will Campbell," said left tackle Taylor Lewan. "His body is transformed. He was a sloppy 350 and now he's a toned down 308 kind of guy. He looks real good. His conditioning shows it. You should see him run. He's like a gazelle. It's unreal. I think Will is going to do some special things this year."
Come on, baby. He's getting the full-court press from Michigan's three-headed DL coaching staff, and I wished and hoped my way to thinking he was a lot better this spring:
Last spring game guy was a lump who managed to not get blown off the ball most of the time and just about never did anything. During the year he was largely that with some nice plays mixed in, but too infrequently to be encouraging. In the spring game he had clearly progressed enough to actually beat his man to the gap more than once.
You know all those runs Rawls had where he had to abort mission and find another hole? Most of those were headed at Campbell. Since we got a baseline for Ricky Barnum in the time he got before his ankle injury last year—decent Big Ten player even then—that's a hopeful sign.
While that hasn't kept the coaches from grousing about things, their expectations are not my expectations.
Finding out that Campbell will flip between three tech and the nose is probably a positive tea leaf. Leverage has always been a problem, and at 6'5" he's never going to be a great burrower. Get him one on one and he can deposit folks on their butts. That is what he'll generally be allowed to do at the three. His ability to do that on passing downs is going to be a huge factor in how effective that line configuration is—three techs can get good rush, and Michigan's ability to get pressure out of the WDE spot is very much in doubt.
What to expect here is a mystery. My WAG: adequate play that's on average a few points to the good on UFR charts (which is average for DL, as it measures MAKING PLAYS more than not doing so). Maybe a fringe draft pick if Michigan is pretty lucky. I don't think he'll be worse than Heininger, and he was pretty decent by the end of the year.
[hit THE JUMP for the GREAT MYSTERY beyond the KEN OF MAN (and Craig Roh)]
Today's recruiting roundup examines the bizarre weight-gain strategy of a walk-on long snapper, takes a sneak peek at the weekend's upcoming visits, and discusses a few top-flight wideouts with interest in seeing Ann Arbor.
Hello: Ryan Glasgow
2012 recruiting: not dead yet. Michigan picked up a preferred walk-on yesterday in Aurora (IL) Marmion St. Francis OL Ryan Glasgow, the younger brother of Michigan sophomore-to-be Graham Glasgow. The younger Glasgow is 6'4", 265, and held offers from Wyoming and a handful of FCS schools. Junior highlights:
Fellow 2012 preferred walk-on Taybor Pepper, a long snapper from Saline, was profiled on Ann Arbor.com by Rich Rezler. Pepper is looking to pack on some weight to his 6'3", 190 lbs. frame, and he has an interesting method for doing so:
Two raw eggs. One-third cup of olive oil. A big scoop of ice cream. Fresh fruit. Blend. Enjoy.
That unusual concoction is only part of Taybor Pepper’s nightly weight-gain routine.
He also whips up three peanut butter sandwiches. One goes on his nightstand, near the alarm clock set for 2 a.m., when he’ll wake and devour it in the dark.
The other two go in his backpack, a mid-morning snack during class at Saline High School that bridges a high-calorie breakfast and lunch.
Rocky Balboa and Elvis Presley both approve.
The running back situation. You have questions. The answers are, well, murky, even to some of the principal parties. Warren (OH) Howland RB DeVeon Smith will visit Michigan this weekend amidst rumors he's slowing down his recruitment—just a few days ago, it seemed he'd inevitably commit if Ty Isaac didn't beat him to the punch—and he seems either undecided or unsure about the situation at this point ($):
While Smith would not rule out the possibility of committing to Michigan this weekend, even he does not know what to expect.
“I don’t know,” Smith said. “I really don’t know. I’m really going to take it all in. I’m not going in planning to commit at all.”
Smith’s coach is currently in the process of coordinating upcoming visits to Ohio State and Penn State. Have any schools separated themselves from the pack at this point?
“Nobody really stands out,” Smith said.
I'm not going to speculate about what's going on without first-hand information, so you'll have to decide for yourself—or better yet, just wait and see how things play out—what this means regarding Smith and Isaac.
Another 2013 prospect who will be on campus is tight end Scott Orndoff, who decommitted from Wisconsin a couple weeks ago after changes to their coaching staff. He sounds like he could be eying another early decision, especially with the way Michigan's class is filling up ($):
“If I decide I want to go there, I will have to make a decision quickly,” Orndoff said, “because of how quickly they are filling their spots. Like every player I just want what is best for me. Like whether it would be the school (academics), or how much playing time I am going to get. There is a lot that goes into it (recruiting). But definitely the way this class is filling up, I can’t take my time if I decide to go there. They are not going got wait for me, you know.”
Orndoff is one of just two remaining uncommitted tight ends currently holding an offer from Michigan (the other being Standish Dobard); he seems like the most likely player to fill a potential third TE spot in the class.
Meanwhile, the Cass Tech connection continues, as a trio of Technician linebackers will make the quick trip down to Ann Arbor this weekend ($). All three players—OLB William White, OLB Deon Drake, and MLB Gary Hosey, who transferred to CT from Farmington Hills Harrison—are class of 2014 prospects. If you're wondering, the answer is yes, I will be seeing my fair share of Cass Tech games this fall.
Future Visitors, Interested Prospects, Happy Trails, Etc.
One player who was rumored to be making a mid-week visit is Cretin-Derham (MN) WR James Onwualu, but plans for a Wednesday visit fell through. That doesn't mean interest in the Wolverines isn't there, however, as Onwualu named a top four (in no particular order) of Michigan, Notre Dame, Minnesota, and Stanford ($). He's got visits scheduled for Ohio State and ND the next couple weekends, and expect him to reschedule his Michigan visit soon; the last time we talked, Onwualu was planning to graduate early and he's looking to wrap up his recruitment in the near future.
Two other four-star receivers have recently expressed interest in visiting Ann Arbor. Charlotte (NC) Mallard Creek's MarQuez North originally hails from Flint, and he's looking to visit Michigan "when it warms up," according to 247 ($, info in header). Smart kid. Wylie (TX) East's Marcell Ateman expects to check out the Wolverines soon, either in the spring or summer ($, info in header). Michigan also had a wideout on campus last weekend in Damascus (MD) prospect Zach Bradshaw, who rated his visit a "nine out of ten" and said he wants to check out Ann Arbor again in the future ($).
A couple more players to keep an eye on: District Heights (MD) Bishop McNamara DT Darius Commissiong, who recently earned an Iowa offer, will be in the Big House for the spring game on April 14th ($). Another potential future visitor is Elyria (OH) DE Tracy Sprinkle, who says the coaching staff has an offer waiting for him if he makes it to campus ($).
We can officially wish happy trails to TE Adam Breneman, who committed to childhood favorite Penn State last Friday, marking a huge recruiting victory for coach Bill O'Brien. Rancho Cucamonga (CA) CB Chris Hawkins was expected to commit to Stanford on Saturday, but a last-minute offer from USC has caused him to hold off for now ($, info in header). While Hawkins had Michigan in his final group, he never visited; expect him to stay out on the West Coast.
Quickly: Free Rivals article on Shane Morris, Brady Hoke, and Michigan's in-state recruiting efforts in comparison to other in-state schools (and, yes, in comparison to Rich Rodriguez—you know this story). Bill Greene looks at Hoke's impressive work in Ohio for the 2013 class ($). Commit Chris Fox is named Scout's top interior lineman in the West ($)—they do mention that he has the size and versatility to play anywhere on the line.